That Time of Year

The temperature is dropping, leaves are turning color, beverage flavors are turning pumpkin, Twitter is complaining about how awful candy corn is…

I guess that means NaNoWriMo is right around the corner. Ugh.

I didn’t participate last year because I was revising Plague of Cataclysms. In 2019, I did this:

*Sad face emoji*

I thought maybe I was finished with NaNoWriMo, since I seem to suck at it and never get close to 50k words, but it just so happens I’m about to start writing a new novel in a couple weeks, and boy would you look at the calendar…

I guess I have no choice this time around šŸ¤·ā€ā™‚ļø

I’m switching things up a bit with my next project, gonna try my hand at sci-fi instead of epic fantasy. I’ve written a number of (terrible) sci-fi short stories, but this would be my first ever novel-length sci-fi work, assuming I follow through and complete it. I’ve been reacquainting myself with machine learning and AI this year, and I thought it would be fun to incorporate some speculative ideas I have within that realm.

Here’s to hoping I can top my most recent incredible effort of 16,850 words this year šŸ»

Introducing Thoth: A Manuscript Evaluation Tool

I’ve been tinkering around with code to analyze my manuscripts for a few years, and I finally got serious enough about it to build a real-life application. I named the app Thoth after the Egyptian god of writing and magic (among other things).

After writing several bad books and getting helpful (though sometimes painful) feedback, I realized I had a number of tendencies that showed up as weak writing. I also figured since I’m a heavily experienced programmer, I could make my own revision process easier by setting up some logic to analyze my manuscripts and identify those weaknesses with fancy charts and whatnot.

I believe other writers could benefit from my code, and so I’ve released the initial beta version of the application here. It’s free to download and use!

Admittedly, it’s far from perfect. With my writing, I’m typically very reluctant to let anyone else see it until I’ve spent months revising it. This is essentially a first draft, and as we all know, all software has bugs. Mine is no exception. The format of the PDF report generated could be cleaner, and the text I coded in could be better written. Also, I wish the download process was a little faster and easier. (It’s not really that bad, I promise!)

I plan to work on improving on these weaknesses, as well as adding more features in the future. But cut me a break here, please – you have no idea how much fucking time I spent on Stackoverflow trying to figure out why matplotlib was crashing the app and why pyinstaller and plotly don’t play so nice together. ON MY BIRTHDAY NO LESS.

Even so, I think other writers should give it a try. Oh, hey, did I mention it’s TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY FREE.

Here are the reports generated within the PDF file:

  • Dialogue %
  • # of dialogue beats
  • Sentence fragments
  • Repetitive cadences
  • Unusual narrative punctuation
  • Adjectives/adverbs
  • ‘Crutch’ words (that, just, etc.)
  • Filter words

Please give it a try šŸ˜

NaNoWriMo Hates Me

Or possibly, I hate NaNoWriMo? I guess it’s all the same, really.

I skipped NaNoWriMo last year, as I was focused on revising THE OBSIDIAN PYRAMIDS, which I’m still trying to sell. I hadn’t planned on doing it this year either, though I’m just over halfway through the first draft of my current WIP, PLAGUE OF CATACLYSMS. But I’ve been writing much slower on this WIP than normal, and I felt I needed some kind of motivation to push me to write more words per day.

When I logged into my account to set up the page for the new WIP, I noticed that I had created a project and tracked my progress for each of the last four manuscripts I’ve written. I hadn’t realized that before looking, but this stretches all the way back to my third MS, THE BOOK OF TERRORS, all the way back in 2012.

I’ve posted on this before, but I’ve never been a binge writer, and haven’t come close to writing the goal of 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo in any previous attempt. My best attempt is only 25,000. Lame, I know.

I can say with full confidence that I’ll never “win” NaNoWriMo, and you know what? Oh, well. I’m sure other people have fun with it, but it really just ain’t my thing. After two days, I have a whole 1,099 words, on pace for 16,485. I do hope to write more than that, as I’m trying to finish the first draft of Plague before the new year. I started the month with 60,000 words, targeting 110-115k for the full first draft. I’d like to return the the Chicago writing convention I’ve attended previously this upcoming summer so I can do at least a couple pitch sessions, and I figure I’ll need at least six months of revision before I’m ready to start querying agents on this MS. This is assuming, of course, I don’t get any offers on Pyramids before then. I just sent out another round of queries to 8 agents this week, and I have 9 left on my list.

If I can match my all-time best of 25,000 words in November, I’ll be pleased, and that should put me on pace to finish in 2019. But we’ll see…

No NaNoWriMo For Me

I won’t be doing NaNoWriMo this year, for the first time in several Novembers. Personally, I always looked at NaNoWriMo as a cute little thing, something to talk about on social media a bit. I’ve never been a fast writer or a binge writer, so I never came close to winning.

But I’ve also never (at least from a certain age) had a problem sticking with my writing and getting to the end of the draft, even if it took a little time. When I’m writing a first draft, I write six days a week, skipping very few schedule days during the drafting process. It usually takes me 5-6 months to produce a first draft in the range of 100k-120k words.

Last year, I made a mistake by forcing myself to start writing on Nov 1st. I clearly wasn’t ready, and should’ve spent another month or so on pre-writing. A mistake that’s led to more needed revision on the book – I’m currently finishing up the third draft. I’m trying to take my time and make sure I don’t rush things. Quality over speed for me these days, even if I feel a little impatient now and then.

For everyone that is participating, good luck this year and have fun.

 

I Lost at NaNoWriMo…Again

And you know what? I don’t mind a bit.

Just before November, I posted my thoughts on NaNoWriMo. I participated in the event once again this year, as I have the last few years. But I never seriously expected to reach 50,000 words, nor did I really try to do so. I prefer to write at my own pace, and that pace doesn’t lead to writing 50k words in a single month.

But that’s okay. I’m confident I’ll finish my current project, which sports the working title Daughters of Darkness. I wrote 22,572 words in the month of November, and up to this point, the work totals about 43,300 words. I’m expecting the first draft to come in around 125,000 words when it’s done. That’s long for a (potential) debut novel in general, but I write epic fantasy, which has a different standard for length compared to other genres.

Here’s the chart of my progress from the NaNoWriMo website:

nano_chart

You can see I hit a little snag as we got to Thanksgiving. Excessive quantities of wine and turkey are not conducive to writing a lot of words, let me tell you.

Anyway, I’m still hoping to finish the first draft in March, with the goal of querying agents on the book in early Summer.

 

My View on NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo starts on Sunday. If you aren’t familiar with it, NaNoWriMo – which stands for National Novel Writing Month – is a writing community event in which participants attempt to write a 50,000 word novel during November.

This will be the fourth year I’ve participated in the event, although I use the word participate loosely. What I do is enter my information and update my word count by day for the book I’m already writing anyway. I’ve never reached the 50,000 word goal, and except for one year, I’ve always started prior to November 1 – I guess that’s cheating? Also, I think that some people go to meet ups to write, something I’m not really interested in.

I’m not really sold on the value of NaNoWriMo to me personally, though I imagine there are plenty of people who want to write but have issues committing to actually doing it. For these writers, the event makes sense, as its designed to break down the mental barriers keeping writers from completing a book.

I’m not a binge writer – I can’t sit down for several hours and write the whole time. I prefer to work for an hour or two every day, typically six days a week – Sundays are for football – and build the story in a steady manner over a few months. This is partly because I get tired after an hour or two, and have a hard time continuing to write. But it’s also because I feel the need to work ideas out in my head in between sessions.

Given my style of writing, 50,000 words is difficult to churn out in one month (even though its too short to be an adult novel). Actually, it’s a lot of words to write in a month regardless of the style of writing. And I doubt that I’m the only writer who can’t write that fast without the product suffering. Some people feel the quality of the 1st draft doesn’t matter, that you should write shitty-as-you-please and just revise everything afterward. But I really aim to make my first drafts good, then revise to make them great (not that they always/ever get there). So while I keep track of my word count on the NaNoWriMo website during the month, I always expect to “lose” the challenge each year, and honestly, I think that’s better for my writing than reaching the word count goal.

Still, I think that it’s sort of a cool, fun event, and one that’s probably useful for a number of other writers. It’s just not one that I take too seriously. I plan to keep on writing after November’s over – at a pace that’s right for me – for as long as it takes me to finish the book.